Monday, October 31, 2016

Before You Vote

For years, I have always wanted to write things that give people hope. I have believed that hope, not judgment, is the way forward. Today, I write this as an introduction to a video my wife, Jan, had the courage to post yesterday. To be honest, I wondered if posting such a video would bear the fruit of hope. After reviewing the video, I came to a conclusion. It does produce hope because without a full understanding of what is at stake, there can be no hope. Hope comes as a message that promises a new future in the midst of the hopeless-appearing situations present in our culture.

Regarding the abortion issue, many people have chided others who hold it up as a single issue for an election cycle. I think there are times when a single issue is of such importance it can actually sway public opinion. I have read the statistics of abortion under the last several administrations. It is a sad history reflecting little change. I no longer care who is in office. What I care about is who is in a woman’s womb.

As a man, many would say to me, “You have no right to tell a woman how to handle the personal decisions about her body.” I agree with that statement. I do not want to interfere with the decisions a woman makes about her own body. It is none of my business. What makes it my painful business is the life of the little person inside a womb who has no rights once an abortion procedure begins. 

The Church is beginning to learn how important it is to love the women who have gone through an abortion. Mercy, not judgment, is needed for those who make the painful decision to abort a life and who will experience the long-term personal trauma of that decision.  I think we have missed a critical point in this conversation by thinking the trauma of a parent who aborts their baby is a greater trauma than the trauma experienced by the life of the baby it destroys. We can counsel parents back to wholeness and forgiveness after an abortion. An aborted child has no opportunities for such a second chance.

Watch the attached video. It turned my stomach. I held off watching it because of the anger I knew it would create in me, or the possibility that I would say something ill-informed and emotionally charged on Facebook. Frankly, I have been reluctant to put this issue out there in the public square of social media because I did not want to be another fervent voice lost in the pool of dissent and unbridled emotion. I am a prophet by gifting. I am issuing my thoughts as a prophetic invitation to those who read this posting to have you consider again what is at stake in this election.  I write this having read and worked through all the arguments on both sides of this issue for the last 40 years. After all the talk and logic that has been expressed it still boils down to a baby waiting to emerge from the womb into the light of day to hopefully be held and loved by a welcoming parent. No baby was ever created to see the stainless steel surgical tools of their death enter the womb as the first indicator of the condition of the world into which they hoped to be birthed.

As you process this important issue, imagine holding a newborn child in your arms and having someone come and try to take the baby and brutally dismember its beauty reducing it to a pile of disconnect limbs and organs. Would you fight? Yes you would if you have a beating heart within your chest. You would fight unto death to protect that innocent life.  I encourage you to vote with that same courage moving beyond the personalities listed on the ballot and the political drama being played out on your TV and computer screens. Lives are at stake.

If you comment, please comment with honor. I am asking you to simply watch the attached video and take your struggle with its imagery and implication to your voting booth or to the empty slots on your mail-in ballot and vote with that part of your conscience that lines up with the heart of a loving Heavenly Father.

Getting Made

Back in the early 80’s, while driving with Jan on the streets of Los Angeles, a car full of gangbangers pulled up alongside our car as we sat at an intersection waiting for the light to change. I had only been a pastor for a short time and apparently still carried a lingering demeanor from my years as a cop.

Jan and I were attending our first Foursquare Convention at Angeles Temple in Los Angeles. We had just landed at LAX and rented the cheapest car we could find – a French car called a Renault. This was a dinky little car. Our luggage would not fit in the trunk. I was embarrassed to drive the car, but was so happy to be away with Jan for a few days that it really didn't matter. I finally pulled out of the rental lot and onto the streets of LA.

Sitting at a traffic light the last thing I thought would ever happen was to be made as a cop. When the carload of gangbangers pulled alongside and looked our way my first instinct was to reach for what used to hang on my right hip, but nothing was there. Then the guy riding shotgun said with a mocking grin on his face, “Good morning, Officer. Hope you have a nice day!” I smiled at him waiting for the weapons to rise, but off they sped, all four occupants laughing hysterically that they had just “made” an off-duty cop. I watched as the low-rider Chevy rumbled off into the distance. Jan and I turned and looked at each and also laughed as I pressed the wimpy accelerator of our Renault.

I write this story to tell you something. The spiritual authority you carry as a believer is not dependent on a place or position, even if you find yourself in a cheap, manhood-assaulting little car. You carry an authority that is not dependent on your surroundings. It is part of you. God gave you the authority of His Spirit – something that cannot be diminished because you find yourself preaching to an empty sanctuary or working in a job that was never on your bucket list. Your authority travels with you and will be recognized when needed. You simply need to walk in love and when the time is right those who need to take notice will take notice.

Last week, I was staying in a hotel in another state while speaking at a church. One morning, as I walked across the lobby, three cops were present handling a complaint. At the right time, I approached the officers and mentioned I was an ex-cop and thanked them for their service. We asked some back and forth questions only cops would know to ask each other. I told the female Sergeant, “My time behind the badge was almost 40 years ago.” She said, “When you walked in, I could tell.” Some things never leave.

As I back walked to my room the Lord gently reminded me that I was now 66 years old and while I still carried “the look”, I would need to call someone younger as my backup. I wish this word processing program had an easily accessible smile emogi because I would insert it here.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Transforming Desire

A powerful truth lay hidden in a familiar verse waiting to be discovered.  “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4) 

“Delight” in this verse means to “be pliable”. “Desire” can be translated, “a request”. As we remain pliable in the hands of God – delighting in Him - He will reform our thinking to such a degree that He will actually change the desires of our heart. Those transformed desires will begin to recreate new content for what we ask of God. Our requests in prayer will begin flow from the very heart of God formed within us when He transformed our desires. This is only possible if we remain pliable in the hands of God.

This word study resembles the time in Jeremiah 18 when Jeremiah was instructed by the Lord to go down to the potter’s house and watch a potter form a pot from a lump of clay swirling atop the potter’s wheel. At one point the clay did not resemble what the potter had hoped for so he started all over again reforming the clay into a shape that represented the desire of his heart. He did all of this before the pot was fired into its final form ready for service.

If we remain pliable and teachable in the hands of God, He will be able to reform us into containers able to carry His glory. We will emerge from that process making requests that were not in our heart when the reforming process began. For those of you who remain pliable, delighting in what delights God, your newly formed delights will have informed and transformed your desires causing you to make requests of God that were unimaginable before the reforming process began. Stay pliable. Your destiny is being formed.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Reaching the Summit of the 7 Mountains

In Johnny Enlow’s insightful book, The Seven Mountain Prophecy, he defines for us the 7 mountains of cultural influence. The 7 mountains are: Media, Government, Education, Economy, Religion, Celebration and Family. God is inviting the Church to stand upon each of these summits in order to bring about cultural transformation. These are mountains that exist outside the walled programs of a local church. They are mountains only summited by people with apostolic vision who will invite others to begin the climb to a higher reality and calling.

This morning, as I was reviewing this powerful concept, I heard the Lord say, “Before each summit is reached a valley must first be traveled.” There are things in our personal valleys that must be processed in order to reduce the weight and restrictions of disbelief that would prohibit our ascent.

I am grateful for the insight regarding these 7 mountains of influence. Yet, I realize we don’t start out on a mountaintop.  Our journey to the mountaintop begins in the valley. Around each of these mountains exists a circular valley we can continue to walk in if we do not deal with the mindsets and traditions that have kept us walking in circles at a lower altitude. The discovery of what inhibits our ascent is as important as the ascent itself. Unless we are willing to have the challenging conversations that will renew our thinking we can end our days looking up, but never climbing up.

If I were to plant another church, I would first gather a team with apostolic vision who understood the 7-mountain concept and who carried a passion to reach the summit. We would create a vision and mission strategy for each mountain. We would then prepare and outfit teams for the ascent.  Once on the summit, these apostolic teams would not remain there. We would hike back down the mountain to basecamp and share our testimony of what the view from a summit life looks like. Then we would transition our roles and become spiritual sherpas helping others reach the summit of their individual calling. This would change everything.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Dark Spirits and Spiritual Naivety

The story I am about to tell may sound unreal to some, but it was an actual incident reported in a formal police report. I was the reporting officer.

As a young cop, I found myself distant from the faith of my youth. In my late 20’s, I had an encounter with Jesus that resulted in me reconnecting with God and being baptized in the Spirit. Everything in my life changed. I began to encounter the supernatural on many levels.

On night while on patrol, I received a call of a burglary. The home sat on a hillside in a neighborhood undergoing the process of gentrification. BMW’s and other fine automobiles filled the driveways of the homes of young professionals who were buying up houses in the neighborhood.

I was greeted at the door by a young couple. They had the look of success revealed by the clothing they wore and the way they spoke. The home was well appointed with high-end furniture and beautiful artwork. I asked what happened. After glancing at each other for a moment the husband said, “Please follow me. It happened in our bedroom.” I followed the couple through the house not noticing anything amiss. When we arrived in the bedroom, I still did not see any evidence of forced entry. The young man opened the bedroom closet and pointed to a hole in the ceiling that went all the way through the roof exposing the house to the outside elements.

I said, “Someone please explain this to me.” I could see that no one could possibly squeeze through the small opening. The man said, “We play a game called Dungeons and Dragons. We play the game with some friends of ours. We have one figurine that is especially important to us. It was hidden on the top shelf of our closet. No one knew it was there.”

As chills began to climb up my back, I asked, “What do you mean by “important”? The couple fidgeted a bit then the woman said, “Our figurine contains special powers that can determine the course and outcome of the games we play.” At that moment all my spiritual alarms began to go off. The man said, “We don’t know how this could have taken place. We really want our game piece back.” I filled out the burglary report and called back into service. I could not include in my report the fact that I had just witnessed the evidence of a dark spirit robbery that was outside the realm of normal police work and unfortunately, outside the realm of recognition by many in the Church.

That story, along with many others over the years highlight for me the naivety of many good people, even some in the Church, who dabble in things they consider harmless, but contain a dark purpose. The root spirit of these things is what continues to feed the enticement of the undiscerning luring them into participation. Just because we scrub something with the detergent of naivety doesn’t mean its influence is gone.

We live in a moment of history where masquerading spirits of darkness move freely under the fear many believers have of being seen as a spiritual hick dancing on a sawdust floor in a brush-arbor church if they actually believe these things. Be careful and be aware. This is much larger than a game hijacked by darkness. It is afoot in our current election cycle and will greet you at your place of work. Everything has a spiritual connection to either light or darkness. There is no neutral ground.

The visible physical world is not the only reality. There are other dimensions of reality that want to influence our lives in dark ways. The gift we need to wisely lead us forward is the discernment of God’s Spirit. When rightly exercised it is void of superstition and filled with the insight needed to see what is not seen with natural sight. This discernment is not afraid to look deeper at the evidence being ignored by so many. I bless you with the eyes of the Spirit.

The Stage of Visibility and Influence

A wise pastor once told me you will be considered an expert on any subject when you travel more than 50 miles from your home to speak.  He said people want to believe the best about a guest speaker welcoming them with open arms. Knowing that assumption exists we can take advantage of it spending more time on our external preparation than we do on the preparation of our internal life. The most important preparation I make on each of these trips is the on-going preparation of my heart. Preparing good material is not difficult. Preparing our hearts is where the challenge comes.

Be careful when you ask God for a place of greater visibility and influence. That stage has very intense lighting that will quickly reveal your blemishes and spotlight your imperfections. The stage of public opinion is a merciless opponent for a polluted soul. The bright lights of celebrity status can become a blinding illusion masking the things in our lives God wants to touch and heal. In order to finish well before men we must first live well before God.

Each of us carries a unique gift-mix. Let those gifts make a way for your appearance on any stage no matter how large or small. When the Spirit of God, not self-promotion, invites you to step up on the stage, the words you speak will ring true in the heart of the hearer because they first rang true in your heart and most importantly, in the heart of God.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

A Suggestion for Those Who Want to Write

Someone asked me how to get started writing. I told them to first create a storage and retrieval system. A place of storage provides a way for you to accumulate what you have written. It also provides a method for future retrieval. Without a storage and retrieval system what you write will be lost.  

Donald Miller, the author of Blue Like Jazz, said if you want to find out what his next book will be to read his blog. Because Miller had a place to store what he had written, he was able to retrieve his material and assemble it into book form. For each of my six books, I never sat down and decided to write a book. Over time, each of my books emerged from the content of what I was processing with God during the preceding season. When I felt a book was to be written, I simply retrieved and assembled the content and edited the flow and style with the help of my editor-in-chief daughter, Anna Elkins. As a result of that process, a book emerged ready for publication.  

Before you begin writing, set up a way to store and retrieve what you write in a word document, a blog or a personal journal. I even use my iPhone to capture my thoughts on the fly when I am not near my computer.  

If you do this, when the time comes to write a book or an article, you will have the material needed to assemble your thoughts around the thesis of what God wants you to share resulting in a more formal publication.

The Creative Voice

You and I have creative potential with our words. We have that potential because we were reborn as God’s children by the breath of the Spirit. We carry the very breath of God. He has assigned our words to be His spiritually reproductive sound on Earth. We use our breath for two purposes. One is to keep our physical organism alive and functioning. The other is to move our breath across our vocal chords to make sounds and deliver a message.

Two creative acts took place in Scripture that involved the breath of God. Genesis 2:7 reveals God breathing into Adam to create the first human being, “Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” The second breath-related creation took place in John 20:22 where Jesus appears to His disciples and creates the first born again human beings to ever walk upon the face of the Earth,  “And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” The first Adam failed to complete his assignment because of his failure in Eden. The second Adam succeeded in His assignment because of His success at Calvary where He secured forever an unfailing salvation for those who would take in the same life-giving breath and become reborn as new creations in a new kingdom under a new covenant.

This morning, I was reading through my wife Jan’s new book, Blessings for Love and War, and came across the following words in a blessing titled, Blessing for Awakening:

“I bless you with the wind of the Spirit,
awakening your passion,
and bringing dormant things to life.
Do only those things God is breathing on.”

As I pondered Jan’s blessing and the creative events of Scripture where the breath of God is involved, I was struck with the importance of our words. We breathe out the content of our hearts forming the words we deliver. The words “Do only those things God is breathing on” made me pause. I recalled Proverbs 18:21 where it says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue”. Unlike Jesus who only spoke life, we can speak both life and death with our words. The choice is ours to make.

Every breath requires inhaling and exhaling. There is that moment between inhale and exhale where we can pause for a split-second to determine the sound and content of the words we choose to release. In that pause revisit your assignment on Earth to bring life, not death. To create, not destroy. In doing so you will place yourself in a creative chain of events that began in John 20 when Jesus appeared to a group of yet-to-be-reborn disciples who were locked away in fear. The life-giving breath of Jesus brought them to life and removed their fear. That is your assignment. Do only those things God is breathing on and you will become a creative presence in the world because your voice will have the same sound as the creative voice of God.